That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession

That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession

Paperback Ideas in Context

By (author) Peter Novick, Series edited by Quentin Skinner, Series edited by Lorraine Daston, Series edited by Dorothy Ross, Series edited by James Tully

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  • Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 662 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 221mm x 51mm | 1,043g
  • Publication date: 1 October 1988
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521357454
  • ISBN 13: 9780521357456
  • Illustrations note: index
  • Sales rank: 441,949

Product description

The aspiration to relate the past 'as it really happened' has been the central goal of American professional historians since the late nineteenth century. In this remarkable history of the profession, Peter Novick shows how the idea and ideal of objectivity were elaborated, challenged, modified, and defended over the last century. Drawing on the unpublished correspondence as well as the published writings of hundreds of American historians from J. Franklin Jameson and Charles Beard to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Eugene Genovese, That Noble Dream is a richly textured account of what American historians have thought they were doing, or ought to be doing, when they wrote history - how their principles influenced their practice and practical exigencies influenced their principles.

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Review quote

'A brilliant and fascinating book.' Laurence Veysey 'A judicious appraisal of men and circumstances, erudite and wide-ranging. Irreverent but not nastily irreverent, with an admirable delicacy of touch.' William H. McNeill 'An astute and provocative account of how the historical profession in America has dealt with its founding myth and central norm - the ideal of objectivity.' Dorothy Ross

Back cover copy

The aspiration to relate the past' as it really happened' has been the central goal of American professional historians since the late nineteenth century. In this remarkable history of the profession, Novick shows how the idea and ideal of objectivity were elaborated, challenged, modified, and defended over the last century.

Table of contents

Preface; Introduction: nailing jelly to the wall; Part I. Objectivity Enthroned: 1. The European legacy: Ranke, Bacon, Flaubert; 2. The professionalization project; 3. Consensus and legitimation; 4. A most genteel insurgency; Part II. Objectivity Besieged: 5. Historians on the home front; 6. A changed climate; 7. Professionalism stalled; 8. Divergence and dissent; 9. The battle joined; Part III. Objectivity Reconstructed: 10. The defense of the West; 11. A convergent culture; 12. An autonomous profession; Part IV. Objectivity in Crisis: 13. The collapse of comity; 14. Every group its own historian; 15. The center does not hold; 16. There was no king in Israel; Appendix: manuscript collections cited; Index.